The "Oliver!" Online Souvenir Book

~ Principal Cast Profiles ~


Ron Moody as Fagin.
A major link with the original stage production that electrified London's west end was provided by Ron Moody, who created the role of Fagin to universal acclaim, and now he repeats it on the screen. Elevated to stardom by his success, Ron could have made a career of playing Fagin, but he choose not to. After playing the part for a year, he decided to return to writing - his first love. It was the good fortune of the film "Oliver!" that Ron was ready to return to acting when the time came for casting. His original west end performance was by now legendary, and though fine actors had succeeded him in London and on Broadway, it was felt none through the years was his superior. Besides, thanks to the laps of time, he could approach the role with a new freshness. He was the producers first choice for the part. Ron has worked on numerous film, stage and television projects since his legendary performance as Fagin.


Oliver Reed as Bill Sikes.
The "villain-you-love-to-hate" role of Bill Sikes cried for an actor with look and manner of menace; these Oliver Reed had in abundance. In addition he had the celebrity of sudden stardom produced by two important films that flashed across the worlds screens in a recent wave emanating from England. "The Jokers" and "I'll  Never Forget What's Is Name." Reed was already a young veteran when John Woolf picked him to play the complex and inherently evil character of Sikes. "The Girl Getters" was the first film to bring him sharply to critical attention, although to television audiences of the time he was a well known figure. Woolf had no great difficulty in convincing director Reed he had made the right choice: Carol Reed happened to be Oliver Reed's uncle. Oliver Reed's final film was in Ridley Scott's "Gladiator" starring Russell Crowe.


Harry Secombe as Mr. Bumble.

Broadway had already a taste of the distinctive personality of Harry Secombe when he played the title role in "Pickwick" also a Dickensian musical, but England knew him far, far better in all the outstanding variety of his talents. Harry actually bridged the generation gap by being a big music-hall star as England had ever known, while at the same time scaling the very heights in the then newest medium television. "Secombe and Friends" inevitably garnered the highest viewer ratings each time the variety series made one of its infrequent appearances, and audiences would flock to all his personal appearances, whether at the London Palladium, or star of the stage musical. And there was more to Harry than met the eye - or ear: he has published short stories, and had worked on a novel. Harry will perhaps be best remembered, as Ned Seagoon in the UK's legendary "Goon Show" together with Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, and of course Michael Bentine. Post "Oliver!" Harry continued to enjoy tremendous success both in theatre and television.


Shani Wallis as Nancy.

"Transatlantic" is a word that has come into wide use over the years because it fits so precisely outstanding performers such as Shani Wallis, who's either the English girl living in America or an American girl suddenly called back to London for her first motion picture starring role. Depends on your point of view. But whatever that point of view, Shani is equally at home in the swank Empire Room of New York's Waldorf Astoria; as headliner on the Ed Sullivan television show; starring in a Las Vegas show...or on stage in her native London. There she first won fame as "the British Ethel Merman" and "the British Judy Garland" (as critic Kenneth Tynan dubbed her in the then London Times). Her other glittering credits include "Bells Are Ringing" and "Wonderful Town." Shani returned to the London stage starring as Dorothy Brock in "42nd Street" at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane together with England's legendary Frankie Vaughn.


Mark Lester as Oliver Twist.
Two thousand young hopefuls applied for the title role in "Oliver!" and 250 of them were actually auditioned by producer John Woolf and director Carol Reed before making their choice. Nine-year-old Mark Lester won the role with his angelic looks and air of a "veteran" - he'd had amazing experience for someone so young (he was then all of 8!). The son of  acting family, he had already appeared on the screen in Truffaut's "Fahrenheit 451" and as one of the children in Jack Clayton's "Our Mother's House" which stared Dirk Bogarde. It was Clayton who suggested him for "Oliver!" Born in Oxford, Mark took the great responsibilities of his key role in his stride, and devoted the rest of his waking hours to school, plus (on occasion) boating, swimming and football.
Mark went on and starred alongside some of Hollywood's greatest screen legends including, Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston and Shelley Winters among many others.


Jack Wild as the Artful Dodger.
The same kind of cocky self-assurance and bubbling over of show-manly gifts that marked the likes of Mickey Rooney and Anthony Newley of other years can perhaps describe Jack Wild. Jack and his brother Arthur were both members of Fagin's gang in the latter days of the musical's long London run, and Jack eventually moved up to the next-important Fagin boy role of Charlie Bates, but hadn't grown enough to play the role he wanted from the beginning- the Artful Dodger, whose rightful name (according to Dickens, who should know) is Jack Dawkins. Jack's ambition was finally fulfilled when he landed his dream role in the film. He also won an Oscar nomination for "best supporting actor" in the part. Jack was reunited with Mark Lester in a delightful film called "Melody" (S.W.A.L.K) which also starred Tracy Hyde in the title role.

For more cast and crew info please visit: IMDb

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